Broken to Healed

By Rachel Greco

Emily Simon crash-landed at JAARS. She didn’t want to be here. Her heart beat for Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea (PNG), where she had served as a teacher for nearly two years.

Emily always wanted to be a missionary. Her grandparents served with Wycliffe in Peru and her aunt served in Kenya. When Emily participated in mission trips as a teenager, she felt God saying, “Yes, this is what I’m calling you to.”

Emily graduated from college with an Elementary Education degree, knowing she could use it overseas. While teaching preschool, God prompted her to pursue missions. Emily prayed about what to do and thought, “I’ll just put in my application with Wycliffe and see what happens.”

While Emily completed the initial steps for her Wycliffe assignment to PNG, her grandmother passed away. Other stressors stacked up in her life, causing anxiety to seep in. These difficulties sent Emily back to the Bible with many questions like, “Are you sure, God?” She had said ‘yes’ to God, so why was she being attacked?

“It was actually good, because all this questioning sent me back to God’s Word. His Word and the Scripture that I had memorized when I was a little kid became life-giving.” Digging into God’s Word during her trials opened her eyes to how life-giving God’s Word is, and that Bible translation is the key to open up that transformation for others. Wycliffe became more than a mission organization to serve with—it became an organization that she could passionately stand behind.

Emily teaching her third grade class about Scandinavia at Ukarumpa International School in Papua New Guinea

Eventually, Emily reached a point where she was well enough to go to PNG.

“I loved it,” Emily shares. “After I first arrived, in every church service during worship time I would bawl, because this was my dream, and I was finally here.” Emily had only committed to fifteen months, but as soon as she landed in PNG, she thought, “I’m going to do this the rest of my life.” She used to walk through the graveyard in Ukarumpa, PNG and think, “I’m going to be buried here.” She’d see elderly single ladies and long to be like them. She had no anxieties that entire time and loved her students. She finished third grade with them and taught them for fourth grade.

When Emily began planning a trip to the U.S. at the end of her fifteenth month commitment to reconnect with friends and financial partners, some anxiety crept in. On the way from California to Arkansas, she broke down again. Emily realized that God had some more healing to do, but she ignored it.

Back in Ukarumpa, Emily taught another class of students. Soon, the stressors of living in another country overtook the excitement she had first felt. The stack of worries wobbled and grew until they crashed on top of her in December. She began seeking informal counsel from someone in Ukarumpa.

Emily and a friend staying dry as it rains on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea

 “Over the Christmas break I decided to return to the U.S.” Emily left her students a letter explaining that she had to leave.

At the recommendation of staff in the States, Emily decided to come to JAARS, where Wycliffe’s staff care is located to pursue the healing she had previously ignored. Some dear friends in Ukarumpa made her departure easier. “The way the single ladies in Ukarumpa surrounded me was a huge testimony to who God is.” They filled out all of Emily’s paperwork, cleaned her house, helped her pack, and set up her housing at JAARS.

When she first arrived at JAARS, “It did not feel like home. This was not where I wanted to be.” While resting and recovering, Emily worked in the JAARS kitchen, alongside three grandmas. “They all had such great wisdom, love, and advice. It was so nurturing and healing.”

After recovering, Emily prayed about what to do next. God told her, “Stay put.” She interviewed for three different spots at JAARS where she could put her teaching into practice. “God made it abundantly clear that I needed to be a part of the Intercultural Communication Course (ICC), which is all about self-care.” Gratefully, she absorbed the spiritual vitality and self-care skills taught in ICC.

Emily and the teens of an ICC course took a tour of the JAARS hangar

It has been a perfect fit, and Emily now soars at JAARS. She loves pouring into the kids that she teaches several times a year while their parents are otherwise occupied during the ICC course. She enjoys her team in the Learning and Development Department and now coordinates JAARS Fellows. The Fellows opportunity is for recent college graduates, to expose them to the variety of missions and develop them spiritually, professionally and personally.

ICC kids learn about listening well to God from guest speaker, Bliss Steele

Emily is amazed how, over time, God has endeared JAARS to her heart. Her original mindset— “I have to be here” has moved to “I want to be here. I want to be part of this organization.” JAARS has changed from a secondary place and become what Emily truly wants to do.

Only God could turn a painful crash landing into a joyful place of healing and soaring.